Adam Schneider Posts

St Kilda 2008 Season Highlights DVD

Unsure as to the copyright restrictions on this but I’ve always felt St Kilda is under-represented when it comes to fans actively archiving the club’s history, aside from a few – namely the wonderful Riewoldt12 on YouTube. So before I get to the DVD itself I want to go over some ground I’ve covered a little already on this about Sports Delivered and these kinds of productions.

I try and include as many nods to the past as I can, where appropriate, where relevant, where whatever, when I write for this blog. History is what football clubs are built, it’s a key reason why this competition and this game have an exceptionalism to them, and it’s an inherent aspect of why we follow clubs in the manner that we do.

Sports Delivered had done a brilliant job of archiving teams’ better seasons through the 1980s, up until late last decade, through season highlights DVDs for clubs. Each season is its own story within a club’s ongoing epic saga. A season highlights DVD tracks an entire story, and the matches, players, coaches and everything that go into a season – successful or not – are unique. You relate different seasons and your club’s fortunes to where you life was that at the point. I remember how much my Dad enjoyed watching the St Kilda 1991 Season Highlights VHS when I managed to get my hands on a copy via eBay 21 years on.img_7305

In 2009 it made the commercially-driven and incredibly disappointing decision to not produce season highlights for anyone outside of the Grand Finalists, and so multiple stories of hope and heartbreak that were endured by other clubs in a season – the losing Grand Finalists, those that came within a kick, a few minutes, a quarter, a match of a Grand Final – were condemned to be splintered into short moments viewed on individual YouTube videos with no context and no reverence to the journey it was a part of.

Sports Delivered’s decision meant that St Kilda’s 2009 and 2010 seasons only received “members only” DVDs; shortened versions of the more involving DVDs produced up until that point. For whatever reason, the company had made what was at the time a one-off decision to do the same in 2005, meaning tangible preservation of arguably the three most turbulent and remarkable seasons in the club’s history were mostly eliminated for a large number of people.

For that reason I’ve decided to upload what St Kilda productions Sports Delivered did create, starting with the 2008 Season Highlights DVD, particularly as they continually slim down their offering and take older productions out of their line. Because we all want to revisit these and be heartbroken all over again.

This DVD covers what has become an increasingly overlooked season, given what happened over the next two years. Had the players been able to take on Ross Lyon’s ethos a little earlier they might been able to give at least a Grand Final appearance a more decent shake. Either way, the turnaround from Round 13 onwards triggered a remarkable finish to the year – Robert Harvey announcing his retirement and everything that went with it, the 108-point win against the Bombers in the last match of the home-and-away season to steal a top-four spot, and for the third time in five seasons coming within a game of a Grand Final appearance.

At 86 minutes it’s a thorough recollection of the year, mostly taken directly from Foxtel’s The Winners program (hence the random music before the DVD’s own soundtrack comes in over the scores and match details). It also has key parts of Ross the ex-Boss’s post-match press conference after each game, and the occasional inclusion of opposition goals actually gives a decent context as the respective matches (except for a random Melbourne goal in a 79-point win). The late Stephen Phillips is the narrator; as well as his more well-known work as part of the VFL/AFL and wider sporting media, he was a regular fixture in these productions, including the St Kilda history production Heaven & Hell and the club’s 2010 Season Highlights DVD.

Seasons past

Round 21, 2016
St Kilda 5.0, 7.5, 9.8, 11.10 (76)
Sydney Swans 4.1, 8.4, 16.7, 23.8 (146)
Crowd: 33,059 at Etihad Stadium, Saturday, August 13th at 7.25pm

Between two wins from the first eight games and last night we swung between “mathematical chance” for a finals appearance and “part of the conversation” (as proxy for “better mathematical chance”). Ridiculously, we’re still a mathematical chance to make the eight, but more reasonably (and to the point) we’re no longer part of the conversation.

Saturday night marked the end of a few weeks in which we appeared to perhaps emerge from the depths of the last post-Grand Finals crash. This year will be noted for the big step taken by the club from the previous years, but certainly nothing more until we find out in the coming years what it actually led to.

Yet another late season drubbing against the Swans in hindsight was always on the cards. Our record against top eight sides hasn’t been awful – some of those encounters include our best footy for the year – but the Swans added to our 2016 pile of smashings at the hands of premiership fancies that have highlighted the gap still to be made between where we’re coming from, where we are and where we want to get to.

The AFL has enjoyed the comfort of recent years knowing that the Swans will be facing the lowly Saints late in the season in what surely looms as a key match for the Sydneysiders (#conspiracy). In Round 21 of 2013 the Swans doubled our score for a 59-point win; in Round 21 of 2014 Buddy went nuts and the Swans won by 71; last year we kicked only four goals in Sydney premiership hero Adam Schneider’s farewell match in Round 22 as the Swans shat in a 97-point thumping; and in Round 21 this year it was a 70-point margin.

Despite what was on the line for both team the atmosphere pre-match was one I haven’t quite experienced before. The Pride Match is a wonderful initiative by the club. Last night was the first time I ever saw two males holding hands at a game of footy. I saw one man get visibly emotional as he received his Pride scarf, which were sold out well before the game (I had to opt for the beanie after going to four different selling points inside and outside of the ground). There was a remarkably relaxed feeling walking through the crowd; people seemed to feel comfortable and there little of the bravado that often accompanies a boorish mass of people. People felt like they just be people.

The reception it received – judging by the media attention on the game, the atmosphere at the ground, and seeing how many people had purchased and were wearing the scarves and beanies – was incredibly heartening. As a straight, white male I’ve had the easiest of runs but to know this event was being planned and then actually attending was a relief. Some people will say it’s a PR stunt; others will click the “Angry” icon on Facebook posts from the club and the league; others will bemusingly leave flyers on windscreens around Trevor Barker Beach Oval on the day of Sandringham home games. Yes, free speech and all that, but the ideal of free speech is to have a serious conversation, and through that process weed out the excess and deadweight that gets in the way of growth and progress. It’s so great that the club I support engineered this event, but it’s so great that any club did.

Hey, remember that time we had pick #2 in the 2001 National Draft and we used it on Luke Ball and then Chris Judd got taken at #3 and the Eagles made back-to-back Grand Finals and won a premiership and Judd became one of the greatest players of all time? And then Luke Ball left after getting only 50 per cent game time in the 2009 Grand Final and won a premiership the following year for the club we played off against twice for the Cup? Anyway, three years ago we had the #3 pick and we used on this guy Jack Billings who I reckon will be pretty good, but the Bulldogs had pick #4 and they used it on Marcus Bontempelli who is exactly the kind of big-bodied, polished player who can kick goals that we’re chasing in a trade or via free agency to lead our midfield and is probably the best young guy in the comp at the moment? And albeit at this early stage Billings is giving us worrying signs that he might not be as good as thought he might be? He had five touches to three-quarter time last night. Yes, it’s not about this year; yes, he’s here for a career; but is anyone else slightly terrified about that situation? Here’s to a massive pre-season for Junior Burger.

Anyway, we’re looking thereabouts for the coveted #9 pick this year, having had it in 2006 and 2007, using it on Armo and Big Ben respectively. Armo’s a known quantity now – we know what his best is, and he was closer to it last night than he’s been all year. But he’s fallen well down in the pecking order of our prospective midfield through the anticipated climb up the ladder. Big Ben has turned into Shane Savage and Luke Dunstan (with pick #18 in 2013). I still think we finish ahead in that one (pick #19 in 2013 was Blake Acres which technically speaking we received from the Hawks in a separate deal for picks 24 and 59), although you’d have to ignore the fact that Patrick Dangerfield (yes) was taken with the pick immediately following Big Ben’s, and Cyril Rioli three picks later, and Harry Taylor at #17, and Alex Rance at #18, and Callan Ward at #19.

Blacres was really the only one that Richo highlighted in the post-match press conference. Again, he was just about everywhere. He started at centre bounces, and moved high up the ground and into defence, took on the opposition and moved smoothly through traffic, and played as a focal point up forward. It was his hard get-out from the middle that released Steven who ran and delivered to Mav for a goal in the first quarter, and twice in the second quarter after he was moved up forward pushed up a little to provide a link and delivered handsomely to Paddy on the lead.

He ended up with 1.3 amongst a couple of rushed shots and probably should have finished with two or three goals but in his turns up forward he covered for the glaring absence of Membrey and Bruce. Membrey looked likely early but after his early mark and goal neither really effected the game in any meaningful way. Paddy only finished with five disposals but he kicked two goals and presented very nicely when the guys further up the ground were holding up their end of the bargain.

The difference between the first and second halves was (obviously) profound. As someone who totally doesn’t play for the St Kilda Football Club I can’t actually tell you why, I can mostly just sit here at the keyboard and say I don’t think Billings was very good. Perhaps the enormity of getting through a season caught up with the group when faced with a genuine premiership prospect playing for a top-two spot; for whatever reason it might have been Richo pointed out that whilst the intent might have been there it simply wasn’t effective when a tackle was attempted or a turnover was on. The midfield was obliterated; Ross and Armo battled hard but Steven’s influence was quelled, Hickey couldn’t run after the first quarter and Gresham’s output was understandably down a little. Guys like Geary and Dunstan may well have been missed, but I don’t think their absence combined with a couple of umpiring howlers in the final quarter would have made much difference to this one. The Swans were controlled throughout and it felt as if we were playing above ourselves to stay in it until half-time; the short balls in to players in space in the forward 50 was our forté last week; this week it was the Swans who ran, spread and presented in numbers all across the ground.

Strangely, the best moment of the night might have been Eminem’s snap goal in the first quarter when he was low to ground and under pressure; at that point we were looking like we might really present a challenge to the Swans. However, he and Minchington are the most likely to come out on form next week as surely some novelty moves are made to make way for Shenton, Templeton, Holmes, Brandon White, et al. What might save Wright is what saved Minchington the week before – low possession numbers offset by a large tackle count; Wright had an equal game-high of eight (shared with Newnes and Tom Mitchell) whilst Minchington had 10 against the Blues. But the temptation to have a look at guys that have performed consistently well for the Zebras without reward surely becomes too great given the only thing on the line is exactly which top-10 pick we get that we might regret in hindsight. Shenton kicked another four goals for Sandy today, making it 10 in the last two weeks and 16 in his last five games for the Zebras. I don’t know how many possessions Eli needs to get and Holmes’ best chance comes this week with Hickey in doubt.

Who else but the Saints to play into form a premiership contender? Buddy roamed scarily across the ground in the second half and incredibly racked up the highest possession count of his career (28) to go with his six goals; at the other end Aliir Aliir continued to establish himself with his composure Fletcher-esque reach – his spoil on Paddy wide near the 50-metre arc was sublime. Their midfield showed off the best of their hardness and polish, and racked up huge numbers (and a few goals) en masse. To put it short, the Swans looked scary, and there’s every chance we’ll be looking back on Hawthorn vs. Sydney Grand Finals in the even-numbered years of 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The season effectively ended with potential future captain Jack Newnes’ flying shot at goal at the beginning of the third term. His shot cannoned into the post; had it gone through we would have been in front, but from then on Buddy alone collected 15 possessions and kicked three goals in the quarter as the Swans kicked 8.3 to 2.3 for the term; 15.5 to 4.5 for the half, and 17 of the last 20 goals for the match. The final siren marked a 141-point turnaround from the previous week, making it our 11th highest in history but only eight points from second on the list.

I don’t think any reasonable Saints fan would have set themselves for a season that ends immediately with the sounding of a siren – I talk of course about finding yourself in a final, or an effective elimination match near the end of the year. When you’ve been at our low level over the past few years the end of the season is literally just the end of the final home and away match, but you’re counting down to that from around the halfway point when it’s clear no dream run will emerge. We didn’t quite get that this year. Whilst the slow start to the season and costly losses to the Gold Coast and North Melbourne (at least one of the two to them) had us on or near the ropes for much of it, the emergence of several younger guys and some genuinely good wins on the back of some genuinely good football meant it would take a few serious shakes it took to bring the whole thing down.

In hindsight it was the 2003 season that was the link between the post-1997 Grand Final crash and rebuild and the heady 2004-2010 premiership-fancy era. I don’t think the improvement in 2017 will be as exponential as what the stunning 2004 season gave us, but with the addition of Carlisle, perhaps another big-name player in the off-season, and another season’s experience for the younger guys improvement has to be a non-negotiable. Amongst all the forgettable games, conjecture by amateur bloggers about our recruiting and the piercing draft and trade talk, time passes. Slowly but surely we’re approaching that point in the future we’ve been talking about for years; that point where what the club has been building towards materialises. Over the next couple of weeks we get to relax a bit, and then we get the chance to really take a break for a few months. These types of seasons can become quite laborious as a fan and it’s a welcome breather. The weather in Melbourne today was beautiful and in tandem with last night’s result compounded the feeling of another season going by; the unfamiliar weight of pressure, however small, of the last few weeks had been lifted. But as one Sydney premiership hero (and yes, ex-Saint too) once said, “Give me Grand Final nerves any day”.

RedWhiteandBlack.com.au 2016 Best Player Votes – Round 21
David Armitage – 3
Blake Acres – 2
Seb Ross – 2
Leigh Montagna – 1
Jack Newnes – 1
Nick Riewoldt – 1

Totals
Jack Steven – 32
Nick Riewoldt – 23
Seb Ross – 23
Tim Membrey – 18
Tom Hickey – 14
David Armitage – 11
Leigh Montagna – 11
Blake Acres – 10
Jack Newnes – 9
Mav Weller – 7
Jade Gresham – 6
Jack Billings – 5
Sam Fisher – 5
Jarryn Geary – 5
Josh Bruce – 4
Sam Gilbert – 4
Dylan Roberton – 4
Shane Savage – 4
Sean Dempster – 2
Paddy McCartin – 2
Luke Delaney – 1
Luke Dunstan – 1
Jack Sinclair – 1

The RWB 2015 Season Review podcast

It’s that vague time of year again in which Rich and myself break some copyright laws in an attempt to enliven the inane chat that makes up most of our podcasts. In this case, it’s our 2015 Season Review and that rubbish chat is sadly maximised as this one is another feature-length presentation from RWB HQ (this time the Brunswick West one). Who’s in Tom’s Top 5 Hair at the club and who threw up next to Rich in the back of the taxi?

Without a fight

Round 22, 2015
St Kilda 1.5, 3.9, 4.12, 4.14 (38)
Sydney Swans 4.3, 10.6, 15.10, 20.15 (135)
Crowd: 27,856 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, August 30th at 3.20pm

In the character-based comedy stylings of the St Kilda Football Club Adam Schneider was farewelled today with the opposition supporters having infinitely more reason to be thankful for his services.

He was not just a part of the history-making Swans outfit that broke the longest VFL/AFL premiership drought in 2005, but he was also pivotal the week before in which the Swans won their first final at the MCG for 69 years. Of Course, who else would it be against? (Just as a further tease, the same number of years the Saints took to win out first and still only flag).

That 2005 season would go down as one of the most tumultuous in St Kilda history, and one that for a brief fortnight appeared could be the one that delivered its second flag. Instead the unfancied Swans – whilst they’d finished above us on the ladder in third spot, they were lucky to be there due to Nick Davis’ heroics – ran away with the Preliminary Final in the final quarter. Schneider finished with three straight as the Swans kicked 7.0 to 0.4 in the final term.

I’ve only ever seen one highlight from that game, one day being daring enough to bring myself to watch some footage from it (a YouTube that has since been taken down, but a couple of more in-depth highlights videos of that night have been posted). That on passage is Schneider’s third goal halfway through in the final term to seal the deal once and for all. Tim Lane’s commentary befits the mood and context of that moment wonderfully.

Obviously not the best way to ingratiate yourself to an opposing club’s fans but it was a very popular trade indeed that brought him and Dempster to the club. Curiously (as pointed out in Herald Sun yesterday), the only three players remaining from that match are Goodes and the St Kilda duo.

Schneider brought a slickness to the side that we really needed more of; a goalsneak foil to Milne but one that could play higher up the ground and use pinpoint disposal going into attack.

But so it will be that the 2009 Grand Final will be the defining point of his St Kilda career. Going into the day he’d already banked a premiership as a 21 year-old in just his third season, and for all intents and purposes he should have had a second. He wasn’t the only villain on the day the Saints kicked themselves out of a premiership – Milne, McQualter, Gram and Dempster all wasted multiple gettable chances – but he was the ringleader.

His return of 2.3 doesn’t tell you that his first chance at goal was a snap from directly in front to give us our first major but, as we saw close-up from the Punt Road end pocket he tried kicking the proverbial off the Sherrin and missed. Nor does it tell you about the moment that will be branded painfully, searingly into my memory will be his miss in the last quarter that would have set the tone and put breathing space between ourselves and the Cats. At the time it was another miss we feared might come back to hurt us in the worst possible way, and now it hurts immensely.

I’ve never seen footage from the game; I still turn away when a highlight appears on TV and I know it’s from the game (including when watching the 2009 Season Highlights DVD). And so I’ve seen Scarlett in the seconds before “the toepoke” but I still don’t exactly know what it looks like (likewise Chapman’s goal). But this Schneider moment is still clear in my mind, from the viewpoint of our seats at the other end of the ground. It’s as much the feeling I had at the time as well as the visual memory itself. When he broke clear into space, well inside range, the first instinct was that he would kick it. But in the wider context of what the kick meant this was a completely foreign position to be in. When he broke clear, I remember thinking…well, I don’t know if I want to say I felt “this is it”, because the goal in itself wasn’t going to win it at that point, rather, that if he kicked it we would be very difficult to shake from there. But for that brief moment before he physically kicked it we were going to be in that incredible position in the last quarter of a Grand Final. His getting the ball and heading for goal on his own seemed to represent the situation we were in: there were no obstacles; no thunderbolts from the footy gods, no personal hang-ups. It was only space; I guess “weightless” is the best way to describe how I felt. The only thing standing in our way from this point would be ourselves. And within seconds, so it proved to be. The kick curled to the right and missed.

Maybe it was the 21 year-old frame of mind I was in at the time, but in writing this even now I can feel myself getting worked up about how I felt. There are few singular moments in St Kilda’s history I personally feel so pained about; so simply sad about. For a few seconds I thought we were on our way. But we gave it up and ultimately lost it. That’s a long way down.

From that point on his key contribution was set in stone, officially so after the Grand Final Replay and the team was psychologically ruined. Time would run out for him well before he would make it anywhere near another Grand Final in which he could atone for that day. It raised its head again this year against the Bombers early in the season. A missed set shot from directly in front to put us up by over a goal with several minutes left; the resulting kick-out was taken straight up the other end for what proved to be Travis Colyer’s winning goal. It didn’t prove to be as much until after Schneider missed from 15 metres out directly in front.

Every player from the 2004-2010 era who retires feels like a victory for everyone that enjoyed seeing the Saints fail to win a premiership throughout it, and for those who thoroughly enjoyed the St Kilda schoolgirl saga to bookend it (as an entree to the dour awful 2011 season). We’re that far away from those Grand Finals now that we’re more prone to thanking Schneider for his work with Lonie (surely he takes #13?), Sinclair and Minchington in the immediate sense of what we’re losing. Unfortunately, as a St Kilda supporter, his career will be defined by that moment on that amazing, awful, defeating day. In a wider context, his career’s peak will have come with the Sydney Swans as part of their 2005 premiership, with him personally disposing of St Kilda en route.

Hard to review a (non-retiring) player’s game at this stage of the year without turning it into a faux-season review, or “Where are they at?” BigFooty-style irrationality convention. It’s hard to review anything with this one in that light because I went to the Savoy for lunch and drinks with RWB cohort Rich, Dad, Lewis and family friend Jim, but we already know the Savoy will have to echo it’s comeback act from the time that construction begins on the 68-floor tower on its site.

I keep coming back to this but I always will – Mum and Dad returning to the country gave a welcome expanded dynamic to gameday. The problem was that they so late in the season and only now I was getting used to the pre- and post- match drinks, burgers and chats, let alone the games themselves. And just like that, with next week a meaningless match over in Perth, the season is essentially over for the supporters.

The takeaway from last week was the performance of J Holmes; big leaps, good hit-out numbers and some tapwork that gave our midfield its best service for years. Holmes opened up early with a big leap and healthy tap, Armo winded from hit, Schneider caught immediately

Holmes looked quite lost for much of the game, with Mike Pyke the beneficiary. Pyke floating forward on his own was a dreaded but predictable outcome, and Tippett helped himself at the right time of year to plenty of the action as the ruck foil and up forward.

The signs weren’t that good whichever way you looked at it. Even our better passages were wasted. Holmes out of the ruck to Armo, to Ross, to Murdoch and then to dicking around should simply have been a straightforward entry to the advantage of a moving forward in 50. Instead, the Swans forced a stoppage and went straight to the other end and a chance to reset at a throw in next to their own goals.

Tom Hickey obviously either got comfortable or injured after signing a two-year deal last week, doing fark all and subbed out just after half-time with leaner numbers than J Holmes. Playing as a forward he kicked one behind and elsewhere he was disappointing, punctuated by weak efforts in a marking contest against Grundy in front of the members and then a weak tackle on Pyke, which ended with Riewoldt flying back into a marking contest and Tippett goaling immediately.

Novelty team line-ups mean novelty passages of play. Anything featuring Murdoch (like the above) probably qualifies, but he and the poorly-haired Seb Ross were busy across the ground early, linking up for Ross to hit the post. Other behinds registered at quarter-time were barely decent opportunities (e.g. Gilbert off the ground from 12 rows back behind the goals), but such was Sydney’s pressure and our ability to execute, pressured or not.

Armo didn’t kick a great chance for goal on the run after some good work from a Schneider and Sav double team, and the footy went straight up for Mike Pyke running into goal with Holmes nowhere near it. What could have been a three-point margin was now 15, and moments later 21, despite the Swans leading the scoring shots count 9 to 8 at that point.

Things were looking really droll when Dempster came out of defence and just vaguely kicked it out of play. No tact, no cunning, no plan from the wider team to give him something further down the ground. But we plummeted further with some more St Kilda comedy gold as Armo strolled in to goal and missed, Webster dropped an easy mark in defence and Tippett and Goodes goaled immediately afterwards. Murdoch’s nice kick after goal the half-time siren was barely sugar coating.

As far as those booing Goodes goes, several points to make. Firstly, a few are jumping to their own defence or that of others that they’re booing him because he’s a “thug”, “diver”, “cheat”, etc. They would then have to argue that people have begun booing him en masse in recent times for all of those things specifically, and just purely coincidentally after he called out someone making a racist comment directed at him and then after performing an indigenous culture-themed war dance on field. Because no crowd ever booed him in the past unless after he’d done something specific during a game, as all players are susceptible to (and you’ll be hard-pressed to find too many of those games). I can guarantee you no St Kilda crowd has ever booed him like that before any on-field incident involving Goodes and race (and I invite anyone to prove otherwise). Goodes was clearly booed the first time he went near the ball, with muted boos the following couple of instances. But it was back in the second half, particularly after a free kick decision in front of the members wing went against St Kilda, as if he made the decision himself. Rather, this was about a number of people feeling they had been justified booing because in their mind this was loosely linked to the “diver” theory, even though he actually hadn’t played for the free (and didn’t for the entirety of the game). This carried on clearly to the end of the game (see Goodes’s touch in the final seconds), and people were still trying to at least bat it away as something they could barely hear at the ground (again, refer to the video). This is something that happened, whether you did it or not. This is what a St Kilda crowd sounded like. And I hated every second of it. I don’t think the club will acknowledge it, quietly putting it down to a minority of supporters that caused a minor stir that will disappear if no one mentions it. That would be an awful shame and a rather hypocritical stance given the wonderful work the club has put into involvement in the annual Pride March and launching a “Pride Match”. If you’re accusing me of putting words in their mouth then please tell me what kind of take no comment would reflect on the club’s behalf.

By three-quarter time the game was ready for some more comedy and the club decided for whatever reason to play Tex Perkins’ version of the club song, which was met with exactly zero fanfare considering we were about to endure another quarter Sydney mopping the floor with us.

We just didn’t look like it all day, and specifically Josh Bruce didn’t look like it all day. Lest We Forget his 20-game streak of kicking at least one goal in each game. He wasted his own chances, whether they were dropped marks and his shot with time and space in the last quarter. There was also his mark a second after the three-quarter time siren within range, and also his give-off to the running Webster who didn’t even kick for goal.

So what the hell to say for a dirty day all round? This season deserved a better send-off for the members and fans, and a number of those let themselves down on the day. On the field this was more along the lines of 2014, and it’s easy to feel for a moment like we’re back amongst the bottom few wondering where the hell we’re going. Next Saturday looms as another forgettable match in an era which is purely for bridging purposes; to get us to the other side. That’s all well and good when you think of watching a team develop over a season and seeing the improvement of players week to week, but sometimes we just need to get to the end of a season and have a rest. One week to go.

Maddie’s Match, and Maddie’s day

Round 16, 2015
St Kilda 2.5, 3.8, 4.10, 10.13 (73)
Richmond 2.3, 8.6, 13.8, 13.11 (89)
Crowd: 45,722 at Etihad Stadium, Sunday, July 19th at 4.40pm

Nearly two years ago I wrote what is by far and away still my favourite piece for this blog. Not that I’ve got an amazing back catalogue, but personally I’d had a remarkable day to write about.

It was written just before my parents left indefinitely for the UK as a result of Dad taking on a job in London. That game – Round 20 of 2013, against the Hawks – was the last we attended together before he left, and as was typical of that year it was a pretty flat affair.

But to go with a night punctuated more by sentiment than the footy itself, I’d ended up having a big afternoon, too. To try and put it briefly (as it’s all in the original post), I’d been very fortunate to be invited to a Saints in the City function on the day of the game (which was on a Friday night) at The Point in Albert Park, attended by St Kilda supporters and identities. MC’d by Danny Frawley, a number of past players were in attendance (Loewe, both Wakelins, Peckett, Thompson, Hamill, and others) and My Favourite Hair in the AFL himself came down to say a few words to everyone. The real thrill was being sat next to his Dad – many will be familiar with Joe Riewoldt – and speaking with him throughout the afternoon.

As I said in that review, he was warm and enthusiastic with everyone. At the table he sensed I was feeling a little out of my depth and he did everything to make me feel welcome. He was like that from the absolute start. As a few of us chatted before being seated he came up to our group, and all of us being St Kilda members and supporters, very sweetly and genuinely said, “It’s great to be amongst family”. Indeed, for me the entire day was about that. I’d spent my life going to and watching the footy, and I’d done all of that with Dad, I wrote. It was a special and constant element of my life that I wouldn’t have for some time.

The piece I wrote certainly got more feedback than any other piece I’ve done. One of those people who offered their thoughts was Maddie Riewoldt, who not only said she herself enjoyed the piece but that she’d shown Joe and that he’d “loved it”. It was a simple Twitter exchange – many people I follow and who follow me would have tweeted back and forth with her far more than I ever did – but I couldn’t have been more thrilled. For all the shit I talk on here, and for the very few people who actually read it, I’d felt that I’d perhaps done some justice to something that meant a lot to me.

So how bittersweet it was to be going to the footy together as a family for the first time since my parents’ return for Maddie’s Match. Joe’s words on that day were amplified in so many wonderful and sad ways given what he and his family have gone through.

Mum and Dad had arrived home from their journey the day after the Essendon win, so this was their first Melbourne game back. It was so wonderful to be at the footy with them and Matt, but just a fortnight after the shock of Phil Walsh’s death we were all again arriving at the footy in rather emotional circumstances. Without trying to claim anything more than others on the day, for me the links between the games we went to together that bookended their trip couldn’t be ignored.

Whilst Maddie’s Match arose from an awfully sad situation, this had an element of celebration. That we know that someone clearly loved so much by her family and so many others would inspire something of true value, not just so that people didn’t have to experience what she did but that they could also get the chance at living a life that she was denied.

Obviously the Jack link is incredibly strong, but I still taken aback just by how much both St Kilda and Richmond fans took on the message throughout the week to wear purple. Again, we witnessed first hand just how much people can be united, and indeed on Sunday we were in the unique position of outwardly making that happen.

As for the purple through the St Kilda jumper, I thought it looked great. For something that in any other context would have looked more like either a novelty or an EFL or DVFL jumper, it somehow nailed the occasion respectfully and aesthetically. I’ll be writing more about it in the upcoming edition of “St Kilda Jumper Talk”, which will be anticipated keenly only by myself so no need to look out for that one.

We’d spent over a decade in the first row or two on Level 2 as Social Club members and Matt and I had test the Social Club area on Level 1 for the past two seasons. To mark their first Melbourne game back we’d gone for Level 2 seats behind the Lockett end goal, and I’d suggest we’ll be back there next year in the Social Club section. I certainly don’t mind Level 1 – if anything I certainly prefer the noise levels, with the Level 2 structure amplifying anything around you. But the view really is sensational at an otherwise lacklustre place.

As odds would have favoured the game had a pretty cagey start. A quarter-time scoreline of 2.5 to 2.3 suggested chances for both teams, but from our perspective poor or slowed movement meant a lot of those were only half-chances or from tough positions. A questionable goal review decision and J. Riewoldt kicking into the man on the mark from close range had the game feeling like it was well and truly in Richmond’s control well into the term. The Tigers were working incredibly hard from side to side to shut down any chance of the Saints cutting the through the corridor or opening up one side of the ground, otherwise we literally dropped the ball when we had possession. Any DARE Iced Coffee we had was often undone by our own lack of Australian Rules football skill.

It was a quarter of few highlights, with Paddy’s strong mark high up and beautifully weighted kick to a running Roo the standout. It wasn’t necessarily ideal if you’re keen on taking four points from a top four contender, but it was exciting that one of the few quality acts was by a third-gamer showing off different parts of their game. Hopefully it’s an early sign of a so-far underrated mobility in his game – we know he’s highly rated moving through traffic, getting split (lol) on his opponent and smooth on the ground.

In fact, it was probably Paddy who gave us the best moment of the second quarter too. His scramble and body work on the ground in the goal square, then dive to wrestle it out of Deledio’s hands and quick give off to Mav for the latter’s second was something you can’t teach. That it came from a guy whose size belied his awareness and agility on the ground, again, was something we all should have taken note of. Whether or not he’ll be the type to run up the ground back constantly we’ll wait and see, but he’s already shown a willpower to effect the contest around him in whatever way he can.

My 2nd Favourite Hair in the AFL was typically playing higher up by owing to the Tigers constricting the Saints he was next to unsighted. Damned if I saw any of his nine touches other than his goal in the last quarter, although I didn’t need to look far into the highlights to find the kick out of defence to set Mav up was from his boot. Small comfort but good to see he kept working hard and doing the team thing all the way into what was clearly his quietest day of the year. He’d kept Rance quiet for a half, in the sense that we weren’t good enough to string successive AFL-standard possessions together and actually get it anywhere near either of them. His run at the Coleman is like a diluted version of Stewart Loewe’s in 1996 – massive start in the first half with the side up and about, but ultimately waning with the team’s wider fortunes of the season.

It was such a shame that Roo wasn’t completely OK for this one. I don’t think it was ever really in doubt whether he’d play or not. But the kilos of strapping around his leg showed he clearly was hampered and the club’s already said he’ll be facing tests again this week. I think a lot of people would be in for the idea of him having a week off. From the calf/purely football point of view at the very least it gives something close to our (ideally) future forward line a hit out together.

The calf didn’t completely stop him. His goal at the start of the last quarter kickstarted the comeback. But it took the 52-point three-quarter time margin to overwhelm his endeavours, ultimately. He looked incredibly drained in the post match presser, as you’d expect.

Not sure about equating the last quarter comeback with the day’s tagline “Fight Like Maddie”, as the first journo in the post-match. I assume Richo, resplendent in ill-fitting t-shirt (despite him having maintained quite a decent shape), felt he needed to send a feel-good message to go with the genuinely positive sentiments of the cause the day represented. We’re not quite approaching the parallels between the ANZAC Day match and ANZAC Day itself that simply are hyperbole; given the sporting nature of Maddie and the Riewoldts (and Nick and Jack’s boots alone) I don’t think they would have minded too much at all. I’m specifically talking more along the lines of that I think trying to find those links is really giving the players a bit too much of an out for some of the worst three quarters we’ve played this season. It seemed as though Richo really was genuine in talking up the effort through the last quarter, and whilst he would have plenty to say about the lesser points of the game behind closed doors I do think the nature of the day allowed – and perhaps needed – some positivity to flow through the camp afterwards. But I really thought that as a whole, given the emotional circumstances, the build-up over a number of weeks now and the fact it was our biggest home crowd since we were genuinely competent and probably for some time again, this game was really, really disappointing.

Not sure how much you need to get paid per year to hit a target on their own when you’ve got yourself in space, or to not give up the footy by handballing directly to an opposition player. When it’s senior guys doing that you can feel whatever proverbial you choose. Gilbert has plenty of endeavour but is cataclysmic, Fisher was too slow in a way he hasn’t been before and Joey was almost there with him, despite the 27 touches and goal. Geary put in the kind of performance that keeps people on the outside like myself never entirely convinced of him. Schneider was already dropped from the team.

It was a momentous day in more than one way. We were to witness Hugh Goddard’s first cracking of the shits, and his first game with his best friend that’s a number 1 draft pick, Paddy, and Paddy’s first goal. We also saw Paddy achieving the feat of wearing three AFL games in three different St Kilda jumpers, having appeared in the the clash, New Zealand and now Maddie’s Match jumpers.

Hugh’s 13 touches probably didn’t reflect how much of a presence he had throughout the game, for better or for worse. He moved around the back half well and was quite partial to the cheeky one-twos, but he also found himself caught out on the wrong side of a couple of one-ones close to goal. The Lennon snap close to the line was quality but Hugh would have been disappointed he didn’t put more body work into both the initial and follow-up contests. That said it felt like between Fisher, Dempster and Gilbert there was a lot less cohesion than usual. That could be put down to some St Kilda-style incompetence but the way Richmond move the ball is very precise – not to mention how much harder and faster they spread and moved in general – and really undid our set up going forward. Either way I must say I was surprised they had all four of those tall defenders in the same team, but Hugh is at least a lot more versatile.

Not that anything really functioned that well all day, but it was rare off-day for both Jack Lonie and Jack Sinclair. Not sure if the chemistry simply hadn’t developed with Eli in there instead of Schneider – and still no Billings to boot – but it was one the lesser performances from the small forwards. Sinclair was a real let-down when he came on. Even though he had the fresh legs for the final term he looked like he struggled to find space and get to the right positions and his set shot from right in front (albeit after being paid a mark from a terrible kick which I’m sure bounced up to him) barely made the distance from 40 metres.

Whilst there didn’t seem to be much purpose in the high balls landing in the forward 50 ad nauseum, there certainly wasn’t much pressure or presence when the game was really one the line from Lonie or Eli once it hit the deck; the latter’s most obvious contribution was being The Celebration Guy With the Goalkicker after Mav kicked our sixth for the last quarter.

Mav was the only one who seemed to be able to master it and find a way through Richmond’s set-up in the front half – and that goes for all of our full-time forwards, big and small. He did it in three different ways for his three goals, too – the first a mark jumping back with ball and some follow-up smarts to find it on the way down, the third being in the right roving position to capitalise and Paddy’s brilliant desperate work on the ground, and his aforementioned third was the what would prove to be the last of the game, and it’s pinnacle – a surging run and long-range kick on the rebound that registered our sixth goal in 19 minutes, and genuinely brought the most unlikely of victories within reach.

It was just too much. Whilst Richmond didn’t kick a goal in the final term they were good enough to stop us from kicking a goal after the 19-minute mark of the last term, even after kicking six in that time. Very few games this season would six goals in the first 19 minutes of the final term had us still facing an uphill battle; that’s how disappointingly off we were on arguably our biggest day of the year.

So – again, isolating the footy itself – a flat and frustrating affair for Mum and Dad to come back to. They timed it well – the only full season they missed was the one we finished on the bottom, and Dad has seen too many of those in his time.

In that review nearly two years ago I wrote that simply supporting a particular club and the way you do so creates a legacy. What have you seen, who do you share it with and what do you pass down? My life as a St Kilda supporter is nothing without the experience of my Grandpa and my Dad as St Kilda supporters; everything they’d seen throughout their respective times and the experiences I’d had with them.

When Mum and Dad left my brother and I – dear cousin Evan, too – were going to watch the Saints without Dad for the first time, and if Mum wasn’t there then we were without her to talk to about the day we’d had. It was a new part of our history as supporters, and now again we find ourselves in another. Despite the tragic situation, Sunday had a sense of optimism and new beginning. The MRV will bring all means and effort to a number of difficult situations out a purely altruistic wish. That people are out there working for the benefit of other people.

For purely personal reasons for Matt and I there was a similar tone, but one that was in heavy contrast to day’s official theme. As I said, it was bittersweet. We have our Mum and Dad back, and Sunday felt like the christening of their return. Given the context of the day there was even more appreciation for that, if that’s possible.

There’s nothing quite like having the closest people in your life sitting in the seats right beside you. Sunday reminded us in so many ways of that. Sunday wasn’t simply about the game itself. This was about enjoying the time you have with the ones you love. “It’s great to be amongst family.” It was Maddie’s Match, and it was Maddie’s day, too